Christchurch Saves Cathedral

Christchurch Cathedral’s devastated nave • Cathedral Conversations •

More than six years after its cathedral was devastated by an earthquake, the Diocese of Christchurch, New Zealand, voted Sept. 9 to rebuild.

By a majority of 55 percent, the diocesan synod voted to save the building. The church will work with the Christchurch City Council and government and the reconstruction is likely to take 10 years.

The Gothic-style 136-year-old cathedral was badly damaged in a 6.3-magnitude earthquake on Feb. 22, 2011, that killed 185 people.

The cost of a full rebuild is expected to be about $108 million.The national government has offered $50 million toward the project. The regional government and Christchurch City Council will offer a further $35 million. The balance will be met by trust funds, an insurance payout, and a soft loan from the government that may not have to be repaid. Government authorities have promised to fast track the legislation so restoration can begin.

The cathedral’s future has been hotly debated since the earthquake struck. The synod had the options of reinstatement, demolition, building a modern structure, or giving the site to the national government, which would have ruled out using the restored building for regular worship.

The Rt. Rev. Victoria Matthews said she was delighted that a decision had been made after so many years.

“It was not an overwhelming but a very clear majority,” Bishop Matthews said. “I had told the synod whatever they decided I would back them up, and that’s exactly what I did.”

Matthews said she was completely comfortable with the decision. Any other of the options subjected the church to possible legal challenges.

Prime Minister Bill English said he welcomed the decision.

“I think it’s so important for Christchurch to see that this symbol of the heart of their city is now going to become part of the future and not sit there as a destroyed relic of the past,” English said. “It’s going to be a fascinating project.”

John Martin


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